When Judy Murray asked me to write a piece of music that honors the history and region of Roan Mountain, I couldn’t wait to get started. Although I had heard of Roan Mountain, I’d never had the opportunity to visit.
The first step toward the composition was getting to know as much as possible about the history, people, culture and of course, the nature of the Roan region.
Judy provided me with an abundance of information, took me on a few hikes and told me of how Roan Mountain became a state park and about all the ongoing efforts to expand and preserve this fascinating landscape.
My brother Uwe is a master in finding historical details and in our long travels on the road we spent many hours talking about the Indian wars, the immigrants, the Overmountain men, as well as the Cloudland Hotel, which stood on the borderline between North Carolina and Tennessee, high upon the mountain long ago.
It soon became clear to me that Roan was much more than just the visible mountains. It is a place filled with birth and death and long forgotten destinies. The mountains stand strong as living witnesses of mammoth, bison, native Americans, settlers, hunters, ravens, warriors, lovers, believers and sinners alike. You can smell the sap of the tall pine trees and you swear that one can hear the distant sound of a banjo hidden in the wind that blows freely across the grassy balds. I came to realize that through the efforts of my composition, I would be bonded like a brother to all who had shared the magic of Roan Mountain before me.
By the end of June 2016, I had finally collected all of my themes, and took the next 5 weeks to write the Roan Mountain Suite.
It helped me while writing the string parts, to be continually conscious of the truly great playing abilities of the Kontras Quartet. Joel with his bass, dependable as always, served my music like a true friend. Uwe is phenomenal in fitting his guitar sounds into my compositions, which in itself, is a tremendous challenge. I want to thank everyone who helped me in the process of writing the Roan Mountain Suite, especially my family who always supports me in every possible way.
The recordings took place in our studio on the 2nd and 3rd of January 2017. All tracks were recorded in one go, sitting in a circle just as we might play it on a mountain top.